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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Pilgrims Publishing (1 Dec. 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 8177693824
  • ISBN-13: 978-8177693829
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,774,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

van der Braak teaches philosophy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I'm a big fan of spiritual travelog. Among the best I've read are 'The Entronauts', by Piero Scanziani, 'Mutant Message from Down Under' by Marlo Morgan, and 'Meetings with Remarkable Men' by Gurdjieff.

This is an interesting wrinkle on the theme. This is a story about one man's experience with the controversial and purportedly controlling and manipulative Andrew Cohen. It's a book about aspiration, idolatry, disillusion and ultimately self-healing. Well written, and clearly difficult for the author to have done. However, that's where my praise and sympathy for the writer ends....

When you give away as much of your freedom, self-governance and will to a charismatic spiritual leader, and idolise them (beloved guru, gorgeous master, divine leader - these are all the types of terms that van den Brak uses in his early relationship with Cohen), then you deserve all you get.

The bleating, self pitying, victim language that characterises the latter half of this novel is a foreseeable consequence of this sort of unconditional spiritual surrender. It would take a bigger man than Cohen is rumoured to be not to get a little power-drunk on this sort of snivelling adulation.

Is Andrew Cohen enlightened? Has he enlightened anyone? I doubt it. In fact, I invite ANYONE making this claim to come forward and prove it. I've met some charismatic and compelling characters in my life, but no-one I could categorically state had made the trip. In fact, I've not even been able to validate whether enlightenment exists beyond fleeting experiences that ultimately vanish with time.
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Format: Paperback
Thank you Andre.
Another book about good old Andrew Cohen, the fellow-traveller on the vipassana circuit who found Enlightenment in India and returned to Devon to take Totnes by storm. Today Totnes, tomorrow the world, though it hasn't quite worked out like that. And in the process old Andrew is said to have become so precious that if he was a chocolate drop he'd eat himself. I enjoyed this book and found it helpful. This is because it's about one person's experience, their own personal struggle, their own blood and tears, and to read such a book is always of value. The author is writing about his own struggle to make sense of his life once he has been swept off his feet by the charisma, general good hair sense, and genuinely inspiring "teachings" of Mr Enlightenment, good old Andrew himself. This is what I valued about the book - we have all been there (some of us anyway) - we get drawn to a particular "teacher" by their great wisdom, clarity, depth, etc. etc. and then make the quantum leap into assuming that they are wise, wonderful and enlightened in all aspects of their lives and relationships. Fat Chance. But it takes us time to realise this. And how do we then leave, turning our back on what we thought at one time was the most wonderful wonderful path for a life of (as it may appear at the time) poverty and loneliness? And how do we integrate what we have learnt into our new life and know what is baby and what is bathwater? (It is traditionally thought to be a bad idea to throw baby out with bathwater). This book is valuable because it documents someone going through this process, showing his thinking/feeling/living evolving step by step. Thank you Andre.
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The list of spiritual teachers who simply don't measure up just gets longer: Gurdjieff, Trungpa, Adi Da, Erhard, Rajneesh, Shoko Asahara etc.... and now Andrew Cohen. I met him a few years ago and he seemed engaging and plausible. I was also impressed by his criticisms of other wayward, amoral or corrupt gurus like the ones I've mentioned here. At last there was someone you could trust. But now Van Der Braak in this quite riveting book exposes the shortcomings of this allegedly Enlightened Master. It makes for fascinating reading but left me unsettled: is there still some mileage left in the idea of enlightenment? Or is it time, in the wake of the seemingly never ending list of discredited characters, to give up on this notion altogether? To be fair to Cohen, he just comes across as being ultra-perfectionistic rather than amoral (which is hardly surprising if you are familiar with his writing). He's not a furtive alcoholic or a sex fiend with a secret laboratory and a plan for world domination. And you know what to expect if you hang around with people like this. Just think of other famously demanding perfectionists like film director Stanley Kubrick, the eccentric rock musician Mark E. Smith, or even the awesome comedian Chris Morris and what they would have been like as gurus.
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Format: Paperback
I recently went to the website of Andrew Cohen and viewed an "engaging" clip of him and Ken Wilbur "in dialogue". Cohen just sort of stammers with big, silly words he doesn't understand, trying to impress Wilbur, who sits back nodding in his best Foucault imitation. Two guys who've got it all figured out -- except for the part about desperately needing the other guy to stroke his own ego. And it's perfect really, because each can tout the other -- saying "he's revolutionary" or "Cohen is a rude boy teacher and you simply can't deal with that" -- and in doing so, avoid actually having to practice anything themselves. Even selling water by the river, one dies of thirst without at the very least an occasional sip.
Given the mutual infatuation of these two characters, one can imagine the following dialog actually taking place:
What is Narcissism?

The Scene: A seaside café table for two, overlooking the Riviera. Ken and Andrew sipping champagne together, looking out at the sunset.

Ken: Why, Andrew, you're looking awfully fetching tonight. Is that the glow of Enlightenment I'm seeing? (He winks.)

Andrew: Oh Ken, you know I'm always in the same state - hot for you! (They titter.) But seriously, you know how frustrating it is with these wimpy devotees. People get a glimpse of the mountaintop, and think they own it. They don't realize it belongs to Me!

K: Don't I know it! Why just this morning, I had a momentary lapse in my cosmic consciousness, and I'll tell you, it was a total bummer. I mean, how do people live in just ordinary states?

A: Ken, you don't know that half of it.
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